SanDiego350’s Youth4Climate Summer Camp

By: Hannah Riggins, SD350 Youth Volunteer

SanDiego350 recently launched the Youth4Climate (Y4C) Summer Camp to introduce climate activism techniques while allowing campers to discover their people, power, and passion. Designed for high school and college-level students, Y4C was first conceived in May, during the initial COVID lockdown, and is currently halfway through its second session of the 2020 Summer. The planning team consists of a diverse group of adult and youth volunteers, with each separate committee spearheaded by at least one youth activist responsible for administering weekly meetings and delegating tasks to other committee members.

Y4C Structure:

The curriculum development team, led by Kate Vedder, develops the goals and weekly content, as well as the assigned projects, discussion questions, challenges, and journal prompts. Managed by Izzy Lee, the production team produces educational webinars and complementary promotional videos. Meanwhile, Adelka Hancova’s promotional team generates social media content and supplementary materials. Meisha Meyers and Alexa Castruita, youth volunteers, and Jennifer Phelps, an adult volunteer, organize the Sunday meetings as the leaders of the overall coordination and volunteer coordination team.

Y4C Camper Experience:

By the official start date for Session 1 (June 29, 2020), 39 individuals had registered. Each camper began the 4-week session with a welcome packet. The packets were designed with each detail thoughtfully considered, down to the 100% recyclable packaging. In each packet, campers discovered SD350’s custom DIY Handbook – “Fight like a climate activist”, as well as “sneak-peeks” of the week ahead, from positive energy tea to herbaceous plant clippings. Certain items in the welcome packet symbolized an aspect of how we as humans are connected to the Earth. Guided emotional resilience exercises, inspired by Joana Macy’s teachings, empowered campers to use their connections to each other and to the Earth to channel passion toward climate activism. The exercise included deep breathing and a focus on self-compassion.

Y4C Impact:

Youth are often susceptible to burnout, facing many stress-inducing pressures of contemporary life alongside the ordinary difficulties of coming of age. The primary goal of Y4C is to help youth climate activists find their place within the movement. For that reason, the content design team placed extra emphasis on emotional resilience. Another key goal of Y4C is to cultivate an environment in which campers can build a network of relationships. Y4C wants young climate activists to know that they are not alone—that their voice is heard—and intentionally connects them with peer activists.

Kate Vedder, a rising senior at Point Loma High School, stated that, “It is so amazing to be surrounded by passionate activists and to be in this community the camp has created. This camp is extremely empowering and has shown me how to be the best climate activist I can be!”

Alexa Castruita, a rising junior at Hilltop High School in Chula Vista, wrote that, “joining the planning group and actually being a part of the camp has opened up my eyes to so many perspectives on the world and has helped me develop more empathy for people. The camp is an amazing way to learn and advance in your education of important issues.”

Session 2 kicked off in early August and includes roughly 50 campers from 6 states. We will do what we can to continue the momentum in these unprecedented times, knowing that we are all in this together.

Explore Y4C: Website; Instagram; Youtube.

Members of the Month: A Youth Perspective

Members of the month: Megan Phelps, a fourth year UC Davis student and content volunteer; Claudia (Alexa) Castruita, a Hilltop High (Chula Vista) junior and Coordination Team member; and Isabelle (Izzy) Lee, a Baldwin School (Pennsylvania) senior leading the Production Team.

Interviews conducted and condensed by SD350 Volunteer Lorenzo Nericcio

This month, SD350 has selected three Youth Volunteers as the Members of the Month. Each helped coordinate and run the Youth4Climate (Y4C) summer camp—currently in its second session of the 2020 Summer—to help teens get more involved with the policy and outreach necessary to mitigate climate injustices in their communities.

Our three members of the month are: Megan Phelps, Claudia (Alexa) Castruita, and Isabelle (Izzy) Lee. The interview that follows has been lightly edited for clarity.

How did you get involved with SD350 and when was that?

Megan: I got involved with SD350 when helping contribute to the Fight Like a Climate Activist Handbook that my mom (Jennifer Phelps) was writing last year. I then contributed to the Youth Summit this past spring. My heavy involvement really started with the Y4C Summer Camp!

Alexa: I first became involved with SD350 when I attended the Youth Climate Summit in my freshman year of high school in 2019. Recently, I became further involved when I joined the Youth Climate Leader weekly calls and eventually the Y4C Summer Camp Planning Team.

Izzy: I’ve been involved with SD350 for a couple of months now. During quarantine, I’ve been able to explore and pursue my interests more deeply. After learning more about climate change, I was determined to join a climate action organization, and I’m glad I found SD350!

What drives your activism?

Megan: My concern for the lives of people around the world and the biosphere that will be impacted by the destruction of climate change gives my activism purpose and meaning. I’m equally motivated by the people in the climate movement and the feeling that I can be creative in my activism!

Alexa: I’m driven by the feeling that, although as a Latina I represent a group who experience various disadvantages, I still have privilege and owe it to my community and all other BIPOC communities to use my own voice to amplifying those of others without a platform to speak for themselves.

Izzy: Coming from conservative background, I never really thought about activism. But, when I joined SD350, I realized that activism is a form of expression of passion about particular issues. My views have now changed, and I hope that others will join us in the fight for a more sustainable future!

What is your role within the Y4C Summer Camp, and how has this experience helped develop your leadership as a youth climate activist?

Megan: I have worked on the content team and have helped put on weekly live sessions, parties, and socials. Y4C has given me hope to see how strong, capable, and creative young people are. It’s a relief and an inspiration to see how the campers take the challenges and run with them!

Alexa: My role in the Y4C Summer Camp is as one of the co-leaders of the Overall Coordination team, which oversaw the work of the other teams in a way; it definitely taught me more about my capabilities as a leader, and pushed me to be more responsible and thoughtful of others.

Izzy: As a member of the planning team, I’ve been helping to prepare the Y4C Summer Camp for the past couple of months. I’m also the leader of the Production Team and a member of the Promotion Team. This has shown me how powerful and effective our voices can be in the climate movement.

What else would you like people to know about you?

Megan: I am so happy and feel so lucky to be alive during a time when I can enjoy so many beautiful things about the earth—the ocean (where I love to swim and bodysurf), great food (which I love to cook), birdsong, frog croaks, the smell of the SoCal sage, and my great family and wonderful friends (who support me in my activism and personal growth)!

Alexa: I’m always open to learning from my mistakes and am really passionate about what and who I love. I don’t believe environmental justice can be achieved without social justice, and I hope to one day live in a world where everyone is kinder to each other.

Izzy: I’ve been a certified scuba-diver since I was 12 (five years ago). I’ve always loved the ocean and been passionate about ocean conservation. After learning how increased carbon in our atmosphere affects the ocean’s acidity levels, I became more interested in learning about climate change. I’m really glad I joined SD350, and can’t wait for more to come!

Food Vision 2030

What’s your food vision for San Diego County? What food issues do you care about? Share your thoughts on the FV2030 community engagement platform!

By: David Pearl, SD350 Food & Soil Committee Member

Our friends at the San Diego Food System Alliance are hard at work on Food Vision 2030, a plan for transforming San Diego County’s food system over the next ten years. In their own words, “The goal of Food Vision 2030 is to inform planning, policy, program, and investment opportunities that improve the food system in San Diego County.”

SDFV2030 is now in the community engagement phase, and they want to hear from you! Visit the community engagement platform to provide feedback on the region’s food system and what you would like to see reflected in the ultimate vision.

If you want to focus on the intersection between climate and food, there is a section specifically for that.

We hope you’ll take the time to make your voice heard.

Discussing a Just Recovery from COVID-19

Panelists Rebecca Rojas, Dr. Kyra Greene, Sonja Robinson, Carolina Martínez, and Dr. Amrah Salomón were brilliantly moderated by Madeleine McMurray.

By: Louise Potash, SD350 Communications Volunteer

Within a week of joining SanDiego350, I found we were hosting a panel discussion on a just recovery from COVID-19. I myself have been confronting these questions and feeling daunted by the enormity and complexity of our current and future systemic challenges.

The Facebook Live discussion brought together a diverse group of experts: Rebecca Rojas (SD350 Board Member), Dr. Kyra Greene (Center on Policy Initiatives), Sonja Robinson (NAACP and SUN Host), Carolina Martínez (Environmental Health Coalition), and Dr. Amrah Salomón (Writer, Artist, Educator, and Activist for Indigenous and Tribal communities). Panelists contributed their expertise in policy initiatives, climate justice, environmental health, and Indigenous and tribal communities, to address issues and opportunities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

How do we tackle environmental justice issues?

COVID-19 has given us an unfortunate but important opportunity to grapple with the potential economic and societal reorganization presented by this moment. The communities most directly affected by COVID-19 are the very same ones most affected by the climate crisis, social injustice, racism, economic injustice, and other adverse public health injustices. So, a truly just recovery from COVID-19 must address these intersecting issues.

The panelists also asked the audience to grapple with questions such as:

  • How has the San Diego tourism economy exploited land and people? 
  • What kind of labor do we envision in a just society?
  • How do we build a future for those who have historically been denied a future?
  • How can we shift to creating non-oppressive relationships between communities?

What would a just recovery look like and how do we get there?

The panel reminded us that while “recovery” implies a return to a previous state, the prior economic status quo was not healthy or just for all. Rather, we must re-imagine an economy with sustainable climate opportunities focused on communities of color. Moving forward, the needs and opinions of our frontline communities should be considered in the solution. As we restructure, we must engage with and listen to these community members.

To do so, we must be bold and push the dialog for regional change. Panelists suggested working with, and financially supporting, social movements based on intersectionality and voting on both local and national issues.

How can we as climate activists use this discussion to become engaged and effect change?

The panelists’ knowledge and experience were not only extensive and impressive, but I was most appreciative of their wisdom to ask questions of the audience and to ask us to be active participants. As to how we as climate activists can take action, the panel reinforced the importance of actions such as lobbying, petitioning, and voting.

This work is not new. This moment simply feels new in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. We must always continue working toward a reimagined society and economy that eradicates the injustices felt by underserved communities. The resounding remarks from the Just Recovery Panel tell us that recovery cannot be a return to previous conditions. Instead, a true just recovery must redesign a new normal that supports communities at the forefront of current environmental, racial, economic, societal and health injustices.

The 5 Big Moves to Sustainable Transportation

Image Source: Photo of Traffic with Smog from the EPA.

By: Bee Mittermiller, SD350 Transportation Committee Leader

The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) is working on a 2021 regional transportation plan they have nicknamed “The Five Big Moves.” We must speak up to make sure this plan prioritizes transit over highways.

Although these 40-year plans are updated every four years, what we know of the next plan indicates a marked departure from SANDAG’s highway-centric past plans and could shift our transportation system for years to come. To understand how important this current planning phase at SANDAG is, it helps to know the composition and recent history of the organization.

SANDAG has a large staff led by the Executive Director, Hasan Ikhrata, but ultimately its decisions are determined by a Board of Directors—members representing all 18 local cities’ city councils and the County’s Board of Supervisors. They are appointed by each city council and the supervisors. So the decisions they make reflect local politics. 

Tens of billions of dollars of public tax dollars are spent in the San Diego area for public transportation, which includes the automobile system, the public transit system, and the bicycle system.

Gary Gallegos was the Executive Director before Mr. Ikhrata was hired. However, in August of 2017 he resigned from the position in disgrace. What led to this was the failure of Measure A on the 2016 ballot, which would have increased the sales tax by a half cent for additional revenue for SANDAG. An independent investigation concluded that SANDAG had intentionally misled the public about internal calculations that raised significant doubts that the levy would actually deliver its promised $18 billion over 40 years, and also showed that the existing “transnet” sales tax was failing to meet estimated revenues, creating significant shortfalls in the budget.

Meanwhile, tension had grown between those in urban centers who wanted to focus almost exclusively on new mass-transit projects and those in suburban communities who wanted to focus on highways and auto-centric planning. Politicians and environmental groups—including the Cleveland National Forest Foundation, the Sierra Club, and then Attorney General, Kamala Harris—were especially disgruntled with SANDAG’s plan under Gary Gallegos’ leadership. In 2011, these groups sued SANDAG, but were ultimately overruled by the Calofornia Supreme Court.

When Hasan Ikhrata became the new Executive Director in December, 2018, he inherited the plan being developed under Gallegos that was based on revenue projections that proved to be overly optimistic. That plan was unaffordable and unable to meet the State requirements for greenhouse gas emission reduction.

An extension was granted to allow SANDAG time to start the planning process all over again. The Board of Directors has been approving the plan, now called “The Five Big Moves,” at each vote along the way, but as the deadline approaches, some of the members are pushing for more highway projects that they claim were “promised” and necessary for safety. If they do add more highway lanes, greenhouse gas emissions will increase, and thereby jeopardize the ability of the plan to meet or exceed the State targets for cleaner air.

By law, the public has the right to give input during the planning process. Our voices are needed to let the members of the Board of Directors know that we support “The Five Big Moves” as the best way to solve our transportation problems and the urgent problems of climate change.

SanDiego350 has the unique opportunity to meet with SANDAG’s Executive Director, Hasan Ikhrata, to discuss the most pressing issues in regional transportation and climate change. Join us virtually on Wednesday July 22nd at 7:00 pm by registering here.

Tom Steyer draws large crowd for climate change lecture

by Celeste Oram

Over 400 San Diegans arrived at St. Paul’s Cathedral in Hillcrest Thursday evening to hear a decisive, energetic message on clean energy and climate action from climate advocate and philanthropist Tom Steyer. The public talk, organized by grassroots climate action organization SanDiego350, was co-sponsored by over 20 San Diego community groups. In a week of devastating natural disasters and controversial political announcements, the clarity of Steyer’s clean energy message was warmly received by a fired-up audience.

Welcoming remarks by the cathedral’s Dean, Penny Bridges, soberly reflected the urgency of the evening’s discussion, and a moment’s silence was held for victims of recent natural disasters: Hurricanes Harvey and Irma; wildfires on the West Coast; flooding in Pakistan and Bangladesh; landslides in Sierra Leone.

[Read more…]

SanDiego350 Climate Presentation at Lions Club – National City

By Mônica Prado, SanDiego350 

On August 31st, the SanDiego350 Presentation Team shared with members of a local Lions Club in National City what we can do together to solve the climate crisis. Presenters Nancy Cottingham and Beverly Harju explained what climate change is and how we, as individuals and collectively, can act towards reducing fossil fuels emissions.  The presentation was organized by Larry Emerson, a National City resident and SanDiego350 volunteer, with the support of National City Host Lions Club.

Nancy Cottingham presenting at National City Lion’s Club, Photo by Mônica Prado

[Read more…]

State Legislative Initiatives on Climate You’ll Want to Support

By James Ferguson, SanDiego350

We have known for 50 years or more now that the effect of releasing millions of years of biologically-captured carbon into the atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels would trap infrared heat radiation. According to James Hansen, formerly the top climate scientist at NASA, our climate is stable when the level of carbon dioxide does not exceed 350 ppm in earth’s atmosphere.

SanDiego350’s Climate Legislation training, July 2017, Hillcrest – Photo by Olga Cortes

This Summer, monitoring stations in the mid-Pacific measured net carbon concentrations at an average of over 400 ppm! This increase in the level of CO2 has raised the average global temperature by 1° Celsius since the dawn of the industrial revolution, with another 0.5° Celsius locked in from greenhouse gases already emitted (due to the lag between when greenhouse gases are emitted and resultant temperature rise). [Read more…]

SANDAG is Ailing; Assembly Bill 805 Could Be the Cure

By Lisa Wellens/ SanDiego350

Tired of stalled progress from San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG)? Frustrated with its failure to address  San Diego’s poor air quality and lack of transportation options in overburdened communities? Outraged at it’s latest scandal – hiding financing shortfalls and misleading voters about how much money Measure A would raise?

Wishing this planning organization would do the work to bring about a holistic, connected, transportation system that reduces greenhouse gas emissions in accordance with state targets? Assembly Bill 805, introduced by Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez Fletcher could be just what’s needed – kicking the agency into gear with better representation, accountability, transparency, and an eye towards reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
[Read more…]

2017 People’s Climate March

by Celeste Oram and Mark Hughes

2017 People's Climate March

People marching in San Diego. Photo by Greg Lowe.

On April 29th, 2017, SanDiego350 and partner organizations put on our local version of the People’s Climate March. This march was held last in 2014 and around 1,500 people participated. This year, the goal was to double that number, but that’s not what happened. Instead, the rally and march drew over 5,000 people. A success by any measure, and that was matched by the tens of thousands across the country and across the world who took part in the collective march. There is no doubt our demands on our leaders to respect science in general and climate science in particular, to get in step with nearly all the rest of the world, was heard. Perhaps our voices were even loud enough to break through the walls that separate some people’s alternate worlds from ours. This is critical, because while our collective knowledge makes us powerful, our individual ignorance makes us dangerous. And one day’s march, no matter how many people take part, will not solve the problem. Only sustained presence, sustained demands, will impel our leaders to act on our demands and on the needs of our planet and the life it sustains.

–Mark [Read more…]